Driver License Recovery
Hundreds of thousands of Texans have lost their driver licenses not because they are dangerous drivers but simply because they do not have the money to pay fines, fees, and surcharges. When people lose their licenses, they face a choice: if they stop driving, they will lose their jobs and no longer be able to support themselves and their families, nor will they be able to pay off their debts and get their licenses back. If they continue to drive, they risk getting pulled over and getting more tickets for driving with an invalid license, along with more fines, fees, and additional suspensions. Eventually, many people end up in jail for driving without a valid license, and many more lose hope of ever getting their license back.
TFDP provides local legal help to people with suspended licenses, works to change policies that use driver license suspensions to punish the poor, and serves as a statewide resource to people facing these challenges.
Providing legal services
Individual representation. TFDP provides free legal help to clients in the Austin/Travis County surrounding area who have had their licenses suspended due to court debt.
Clinical Programming. With community partners, TFDP holds at least eight Driver License Recovery Clinics a year. At these clinics, individuals meet with volunteer attorneys and law students who research why their driver license is suspended, help them fill out financial affidavits and applications to request non-monetary options for payment of their fines and fees, such as community service or waiver.
Advocating for change
Texas Fair Defense Project works with directly impacted people, community, and allies to push for reforms to programs that suspend driver licenses for inability to pay.
In the 2019 legislative session, TFDP helped to pass a bill that repealed the Driver Responsibility Program, which levied outrageous surcharges on people for poverty-related driving offenses and suspended licenses when people could not pay. With the repeal of this program, hundreds of thousands of people will now be eligible to get their licenses back, and $2.5 billion in debt has been forgiven.
This means more people on the road legally, and fewer threats to safety, wellbeing and economic stability through warrants or jail time.